Nov. 24, 2009
Furman vs. Rice Game Book
By MOISEKAPENDA BOWER
The final determination of what Rice will be as a basketball team this season won't be made for a long while, but an important piece of that developing puzzle fell into place on Tuesday night at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Five games into his second season, junior forward Trey Stanton produced a signature performance that could go a long way toward establishing the Owls' viability as an ascending team. Stanton had played with effort on the defensive end through the opening four games but against Furman he discovered a comfort zone on offense that he repeatedly exploited for a career-high 23 points in the Owls' 77-65 win.
Stanton was the lone Owl to score in double figures until freshman point guard Tamir Jackson nailed a short jumper with 2:16 remaining. The Owls (4-1) didn't require offensive balance against the Paladins (3-1), not with their defense stifling Furman for two key stretches, and not with Stanton scoring at will from every conceivable spot on the floor.
"I really felt that he deserved to have this type of game because he's been working so hard," Owls coach Ben Braun said. "He went through similar challenges last year, and there's only one way that I've ever seen that you can break out of a little bit of a slump and that is to put your head down and work. And he's done that in practice."
Stanton was involved almost immediately, coming off the bench and feeding Jackson (10 points) for a layup and 5-2 lead at the 18:35 mark in the first half. He added a short hook shot three minutes later, nailed a jumper that upped the Rice lead to 15-6 with 10:35 left, and then added a transition layup and a splendid entry pass to Suleiman Braimoh that pushed the Rice advantage to 19-6 at the 9:39 mark. Ten minutes into the game Stanton had already eclipsed his season average of 5.7 points, and the Owls did what they could to keep Stanton actively involved.
Following the edict of the coaching staff, the Owls force-fed the ball into the post and earned Stanton and Braimoh (eight points, seven rebounds) easy scoring opportunities. Stanton was particularly galvanized, finishing 9-for-15 from the floor with nine rebounds to boot.
"I really wanted to establish myself inside," Stanton said. "Coach (Mike) Roberts has really been talking to me about getting inside position, getting deep catches underneath the basket and just laying it up. Whenever I focus on that, outside shooting comes naturally."
Furman managed one field goal before Justin Dehm stroked a 3-pointer that sliced the Owls' lead to 19-9 with 8:53 left before intermission. Their advantage expanded to 17 points before the Paladins cut it to 39-30 at the break and closed to within 44-39 with 16:14 to play. The Owls responded with another impressive stretch of defensive grit, reeling off a 21-6 run that included one allowed basket - an Amu Saaka (18 points, six rebounds) put back with 10:44 left - by the Paladins.
Bryan Beasley, Connor Frizzelle, A.J. Holland and Braimoh recorded steals during that near-eight-minute span while Braimoh and Arsalan Kazemi added blocked shots as the Owls' lead bloated to 65-45 with 8:26 remaining. The Owls limited Furman to 38.5 percent shooting and forced 13 turnovers, with Braimoh, Jackson, Stanton and Holland notching two steals each. Braimoh added three blocks; Kazemi had two.
"Defense is just playing hard. Everybody can play defense if they tried," said Holland, who chipped in five points and three assists. "Coach (Kevin) Mouton and Coach Roberts do a good job with the scouts, so we always know what the other team is going to be running anyway."